Everything You Need To Know About Pneumonia

Overview | Contagious | Types | Causes | Symptoms | Risks factors |Complications | Diagnosis | Treatment | Prevention | Vaccine |

What is Pneumonia?

Simply, an infection of the lungs can affect one or both lungs. In this, your airways get inflamed and swell up and the air sacs in the lungs get filled with mucus, pus (Purulent material), and other fluids.

It is caused by viruses, bacteria, fungi, and other microorganisms. When it comes to severity, it ranges from mild to life-threatening. How serious your pneumonia is, depends on the particular microorganism that causes pneumonia.

How does pneumonia affect our body?

To perform its function properly, it is very important that the airways are open to breathe in and out properly. When pneumonia occurs, it makes our airways inflamed or swells up, with mucus and fluid in it. This mucus and fluid clogs the airways and creates trouble breathing. This leads to difficulty breathing, shortness of breath, and fatigue.

Is pneumonia contagious?

Yes, but only certain types of pneumonia are contagious, i.e

. spread from person to person. Pneumonia caused by bacteria, viruses, or other microorganisms is contagious when the disease-carrying organisms get into our bodies through breathing.

Whereas, pneumonia caused by fungi is not contagious at all. Fungi can be found in soil, they are waterborne and can be inhaled. But it does not spread from person to person.

However, it is not necessary that if you will develop pneumonia if you come in contact with any of these microorganisms. Your body can protect and fight pneumonia if you have strong immunity.

Types of pneumonia:

Types of pneumonia depend on how and where it caught you. Types of pneumonia are as follows —

  • Hospital-acquired pneumonia (HAP) – One gets infected by this type of pneumonia during a stay in hospital. It is the most severe than the other types. It can be a little bit difficult to treat because it can be resistant to antibiotics.
  • Ventilator-associated pneumonia (VAP) – This type of pneumonia is found in those patients who are already in ventilation.
  • Community-acquired pneumonia (CAP) – It is the type of pneumonia that one gets infected with outside of the medical or institutional settings.
  • Aspiration pneumonia – This type of pneumonia happens when you inhale the bacteria into your lungs through food consumption, water intake, or even saliva. You are more likely to get this if have a problem swallowing or you are sedate from the use of alcohol, medications, or other drugs.

Causes of Pneumonia:

There are various types of microorganisms that can cause pneumonia. Hence, causes are also different in different cases.

Bacterial pneumonia – The most common cause of this type of pneumonia is Streptococcus pneumonia. Other causes can be:

  1. Mycoplasma pneumonia
  2. Haemophilus influenzae
  3. Legionella pneumophila

Viral pneumonia – Oftentimes, respiratory viruses are the cause of pneumonia. Some of its examples are:

  1. Rhinoviruses ( common cold)
  2. Influenza (flu)
  3. Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) etc.

Fungal pneumonia – The fungi present in soil or droppings of birds can also cause pneumonia. People with a weak immune system are more likely to get this type of pneumonia. This pneumonia includes fungi such as:

  1. Pneumocystis jirovecii
  2. Cryptococcus species
  3. Histoplasmosis species etc.

Symptoms of pneumonia:

  • Mucus producing coughing
  • Fevers
  • Severe chills
  • Sweating
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain, that may get worse while breathing and coughing
  • Feeling of tiredness
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Confusion
  • Low body temperature than normal
  • Children under 5 years of age may suffer wheezing or fast breathing
  • Abdominal pain especially while coughing

Some symptoms of viral pneumonia:

  • Headache
  • Dry cough
  • Sore throat
  • Fever
  • Loss of appetite
  • Muscle pain
  • Weakness

Severe symptoms:

  • High fever
  • Cough with mucus
  • Shortness of breath

Symptoms in infants: Infants may not have any symptoms, but sometimes they come up with some symptoms such as –

  • Lack of energy
  • Difficulty in eating and drinking fluids
  • Vomiting

Risk factors:

  • alcohol consumption
  • Cystic fibrosis
  • COPD
  • Asthma
  • Health conditions that can affect kidney, liver, or heart
  • Weak or compromised immunity
  • GERD
  • Cancer
  • HIV and AIDS
  • Malnutrition
  • Recently recovered from influenza, etc.
  • Recently hospitalized
  • Long sitting hours
  • Transplanted organ recipients
  • Pregnancy
  • Exposure to certain chemicals and pollutants
  • Chronic diseases
  • Autoimmune diseases
  • People with neurological diseases like stroke etc.
  • Respiratory infection etc.

Complications:

  • Fluid build up in the lungs
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Acute respiratory distress syndrome
  • Lungs abscess
  • Bacteria in the bloodstream (bacteremia)
  • Pleural effusion
  • Worsen chronic conditions
  • Death

Diagnosis:

As always, the diagnosis starts with a physical examination. Your doctor will try to listen to your lung’s sound with a stethoscope. Your doctor may ask you to conduct some test including —

  • Chest X-ray
  • Blood culture
  • Blood test
  • Sputum culture
  • Sputum analysis
  • Pulse oximetry
  • Arterial blood gas (ABG)
  • Fluid sample
  • CT scan
  • Bronchoscopy

Treatment:

Treatment depends on the microorganism that causes pneumonia.

  • Bacterial pneumonia – In this, the doctor may prescribe you antibacterial medications. The medication should not react with your other medication of any disease if any. Pain relief and cough suppressants can also be prescribed.
  • Viral pneumonia – There is no specific treatment for viral pneumonia. But, medications like antiviral, pain relievers, and therapies such as breathing treatments and exercises to lose the mucus may be prescribed to you.
  • Fungal pneumonia – If the cause of your pneumonia is a fungus, antifungal medications can be prescribed by your doctor.

Prevention:

  • Avoid active and passive smoking
  • Wash your hands frequently, especially before eating, after bowel movements, etc.
  • Stay away from sick people
  • Don’t touch your mouth, nose, and eyes before washing your hands
  • Have enough sleep
  • Have healthy lifestyle habits.
  • Consume healthy food
  • Pay attention to increase your immunity
  • Avoid alcohol and tobacco
  • Exercise regularly

Vaccination:

The best way to protect yourself from pneumonia is to get the vaccination. There are several options of vaccine such as –

  • Prevnar 13 – This is effective on 13 types of pneumococcal bacteria. All those who are 2 years or below, 65 or higher age, or from the age group of 2 -64 years with chronic conditions can get this vaccine…
  • Pneumovax 23 – It is effective against 23 types of pneumococcal bacteria. If you are of 65 years and old, or from 19 – 64 age group who smoke, or from 2 -64 years with chronic conditions, then you can get this vaccine.
  • Hib vaccine
  • Flu vaccine.
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